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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Supports Legislation to End Juvenile Confinement

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced her support for Senate Bill 1143, legislation authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would significantly limit the practice of isolating juveniles in room confinement. 

“Subjecting young people to prolonged periods of isolated confinement is cruel, inhumane and counterproductive to rehabilitation. This unnecessary and punitive practice undermines the goal of helping this vulnerable young population become healthy and productive members of our society.  Through this legislation and other reforms, California will lead the nation in providing standards that improve the safety and welfare of both youth and staff at juvenile facilities,” said Attorney General Harris. “I applaud Senator Leno for his leadership on this issue.  I am proud to support common-sense, ‘smart on crime’ legislation that helps those currently and formerly incarcerated overcome obstacles to get their lives back on track, and meet their full potential. ”

SB 1143 would restrict the use of juvenile room confinement in facilities throughout the state. SB 1143 would limit the amount of time a minor may be placed in a locked sleeping room or cell without contact from others, aside from attorneys or facility staff. The bill expressly bans punitive, coercive, retaliatory confinement, as well as confinement used purely for convenience. It also expressly states that confinement shall not be used to the extent that the mental and physical health of the minor would be compromised. The bill then sets reasonable baselines for how long a minor may be confined prior to steps being taken to reintegrate them into the general population.

“The extensive support of SB 1143 is a testament to the harmful effects of prolonged confinement and isolation on the troubled youth in our care,” said Senator Leno. “This bill will help ensure detained young people receive the rehabilitative opportunities they need to safely reintegrate into the community. I am grateful for Attorney General Harris’s commitment to protecting vulnerable children in our state.”

Attorney General Harris created the Bureau of Children’s Justice in 2015, a first-of-its-kind bureau within the California Department of Justice to enforce children’s civil rights in education, foster care, and juvenile justice; hold those who prey on children accountable; and work with policymakers to craft and implement policies that improve outcomes for children.

In this legislative session, Attorney General Harris’s Bureau of Children’s Justice (BCJ) is also supporting a range of bills that would support foster youth and other at-risk and high-needs children. Along with SB 1143, BCJ supports the following bills related to children and youth:

  • AB 1067 (Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Carson)

Requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to convene a working group to make recommendations for the Foster Youth Bill of Rights.

  • AB 1580 (Assemblymembers Mike Gatto, D-Glendale and Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks)

Creates a process for the placement or removal of a security freeze for a protected consumer, a particularly helpful tool for vulnerable children such as foster youth who have an increased risk of identity theft.

  • AB 1840 (Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Carson)

Requires that state agencies give preference to homeless youth and formerly incarcerated youth when hiring interns and student assistants.

  • AB 1843 (Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley)

Protects young people from being subjected to inquiry during the hiring process about arrests or detentions that did not lead to juvenile adjudications, arrests for which juveniles have completed probation programs, or records that a court has either ordered sealed or have been sealed automatically.

  • AB 2390 (Assemblymember Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino)

Provides a legislative fix to 2010 legislation that inadvertently removed a mechanism for juvenile offenders with good records on supervised probation to obtain honorable discharge status.

  • AB 2815 (Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach)

Promotes a culture of attendance by giving district attendance supervisors new ways to address the root causes of chronic school absenteeism.

  • SB 884 (Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose)

Requires school districts, special education local plan areas, and the California Department of Education to document the mental health and special education services and funding provided to special education students, including data to monitor their effectiveness.

  • SB 1466 (Senator Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles)

Requires screening services under the children’s Medi-Cal Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program to include screening for trauma.

Attorney General Harris has a longstanding commitment to protecting and supporting children, holding accountable those who exploit or harm children, and pursuing innovative legal and policy solutions to combat crime by investing in children from a young age.

In addition to launching the Bureau of Children’s Justice in 2015, under Attorney General Harris’s leadership, the California Department of Justice was one of just three state agencies accepted by the U.S. Department of Justice to be part of its national Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative. Led by the Office of the Attorney General, the California Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative brings together a cross-sector team of state agency leaders to develop shared priorities to prevent and address children’s exposure to violence.

Attorney General Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco, where she created a child sexual assault unit. She also led the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Children and Families and specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

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